Youtube is undeniably the platform of choice for beauty blogging these days, and there are many beauty channels I love. There’s a tendency for hyperbole, illegal marketing techniques, drama and 700 identical neutral cut crease eye looks which can be really tiring, which is why it’s all the more lovely to see people breaking the mold.
I don’t know what’s happened to her, she hasn’t updated her channel in years. I hope she’s in good health. Either way she was one of the first youtubers who introduced me to sensible skincare, all her videos are so well-researched and informative without being difficult to understand. I miss her a lot.
Meghal & Natasha
These twins make some of the chicest, most contemporary and well-shot makeup videos I’ve seen and I’m more or less in love with everything they make. Very editorial-style makeup that you don’t see a lot elsewhere.
Speaking of hyperbole, this drag queen is a hero and voice of reason in a sea of “YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE!!!!!” with videos about politics and activism mixed with makeup tutorials and everyone’s favourite – the Anti-Hauls.
Everyone’s skincare role model more or less, Caroline Hirons is the benevolent queen of the skincare blogosphere. Not the most frequently updated channel but she’s a good one. I love her no-nonsense attitude and sense of humour.
Kaya has a channel with about equal parts makeup and skincare, and is very knowledgeable and clear in what she expects from a product. I like the romantic aesthetic of her makeup looks and share much of her skincare philosophy.
Probably the only “big” youtuber I follow at this point, her channel is more lifestyle than beauty and she just comes off as a really sweet and genuine person. Plus she and her boyfriend both have amazing taste which I really appreciate.
Also a pretty “big” youtuber, Jackie Aina is not only a very skilled makeup artist, she has a hilarious sense of humour and is never afraid to criticize brands when they act foolish. Her “trends we’re leaving behind” videos are the funniest things I’ve seen, probably.
Mei has a really cute aesthetic with a lot of soft colours, gentle music and sweet makeup looks. She’s also really funny and kind of foulmouthed which I love.
There’s an undeniable link between cosmetics and food. Going through my own collection, I find items shaped like, named after and scented like food – primarily sweets and fruits. I have a lip gloss that looks like a cupcake, and nearly every lip product I own smells like vanilla or toffee. The NYX Butter Glosses, which I’ve mentioned before, smell like the caramel syrup you put on ice cream, and all the colours are named after desserts like Black Berry Pie or Strawberry Parfait. I use a lip scrub that looks and smells like strawberry jam, even including little strawberry seeds as the exfoliating grit. You can buy Lip Parfait, Body Butter, Shower Jelly, Milk Chocolate Bronzer, Cheek Soufflé, Pudding Tint, Wine Lip Stains and the list goes on. Companies pride themselves on scenting products to evoke peaches, root beer and even lemon cake and advertise said scents as part of the appeal and profile of their items. Debra Merskin found, in a study of lipstick colour names, that food-related colour names were by far the most common among the 1700+ products analysed. Bite Beauty, a lipstick brand that advertises that all its ingredients are food-grade, has recently launched a lipstick formula named Amuse-Bouche where every single shade is named after food- over 40 lipsticks with names like Sorbet, Kale and Cotton Candy.
Furthermore, editorials and promotional photos often use food as a theme, cementing the link between beauty products – applied topically – and food that is ingested. Makeup is photographed as food, and food is photographed as makeup. And if that’s not enough for you – why not cookie cutters shaped like nail polish bottles, cakes with fondant makeup bag decorations and molecular gastronomy tools that let you make edible lipsticks. There’s even a youtube channel where a girl makes various “edible” makeup products – food items that look like beauty blenders or eyeshadows. Foundation shades like caramel or vanilla or coffee names your very skin an item of consumption – I’m sure there’s something to be said here about the link between the male gaze and female body as object for male pleasure.
Certain brands, the ones that have more overtly feminine profiles, feature food themes constantly – Too Faced for example. They have blushes shaped like chocolate boxes, eyeshadow palettes shaped like chocolate bars and even palettes inspired by peanut butter and jelly or peaches. Korean brands like Etude house and Tony Moly feature similar lines, Etude House being girlier with cookie and chocolate themed items and Tony Moly featuring everything from eggs and tomatoes to coffee cups and mangos. Food even features as an ingredient – there’s actual cocoa powder in certain Too Faced products, actual eggs in Tony Moly products, and many other brands include things like honey, goat’s milk, citrus fruits or tea. Brands like The Body Shop and SkinFood feature food items as central ingredients in their entire product lineup, from face masks to body lotions.
Despite all this, food and eating is still a difficult topic for women. A lot of us have a complicated relationship to food, eating, our appearance and our self-worth, often denying ourselves that slice of cake because we’re “watching our weight”. Turning a tool for our own beautification into an ersatz source of nourishment makes the whole ordeal rather ironic. You can apply sugar to your lips to scrub them smooth and plump, but that sugar mustn’t enter your mouth. A dessert may be applied topically, never ingested – the title of this blog post was found in an image promoting a cosmetics company!
This shatters the dreamy ideal of cute, light-hearted sweetness that permeates beauty culture, reminding us that we must deprive ourselves of the pleasure and nourishment that is eating in order to become our most beautiful self. Evoking sweets and treats through packaging, naming, and scenting a product is in a way the only acceptable form of contact with those forbidden calories. We’re encouraged to consume, but never at the expense of our waistlines. Lipsticks are ok, but that serving of fries strictly off limits. But then, of course, no form of female consumption is ever truly accepted – they want us to do it, sure, but we’ll always endure ridicule for it. If we’re not allowed food, then at least we can buy makeup – but wait, that makes us stupid and vain. As if that vanity wasn’t forced on us. As if we could disregard our appearance and go unpunished. So, at the end of the day, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t anyway!
So I say this: have the lipstick AND the fries. You can, and should, have your cake and eat it.
Whether you’re discussing the American “Flapper”, the French “Garconne”, the Japanese “Moga” or the German “Neue Frau”, the new woman of the 1920s has become a fixed, international symbol of her time. With her bobbed hair, heavily made-up face and slim figure, the new woman met your gaze from the magazine covers, print ads, movie posters and satire drawings of any major city.
The most conspicuous and – in the eyes of men – often very controversial sign of the new woman was her appearance. From the rich waterfall of curls, tightly-laced corsets and long skirts that both concealed and exaggerated her figure the new woman took scissors in hand to cut both hair, hemline, and corset laces. Necklines deepened, colours intensified and silhouettes streamlined. In stark contrast with the soft and gentle beauty ideal of the turn of the century, the woman of the Jazz age was sharp, bold and blunt in both appearance and character. The time of child-bearing hips and ample bosoms was past. The new body (which, as always, was shaped by clothing and not vice versa) was to-the-point, just like the interior decor, literature and architecture in the new, rational world.
As radical as the change in body and clothing was the transformation of a woman’s face. Colour cosmetics were now an accessible fashion item, no longer limited to fallen women and morally questionable actresses. Powder, rouge and lipstick was delivered in new, practical and fashionable packaging that could easily be kept in a handbag for daily touch-ups. By nightfall, a cake of rouge or a miniature lipstick could just as simply pop into a fashionable bracelet or be attached to a stocking welt to be accessed at the bar counter or even on the dance floor. To apply makeup in public was no longer frowned upon in the way it had before, when beauty products had been limited to your bedroom vanity. This private sphere was invading the masculine public sphere – women powdered their noses on the tram, the dance floor, and at the café. In addition, an elegant powder compact was a symbol of feminine status, a sought-after fashion item.
Here, in contrast to previous ideals, natural beauty had no place – brightly-coloured rouge and lipstick was liberally applied in imitation of the glamorous and exotic faces of movie stars. Makeup, which during this time period would enhance eyes with mascara and kohl, became a method of expression in direct defiance of past idealized womanhood.
Like most modernities, the new woman was not an uncontroversial figure. Criticism often originated with several political ideas, such as the conservative voice that criticised the New Woman’s masculine qualities. Men in particular were distressed by the boyish silhouette and short hair of their female contemporaries, claiming it as unflattering and downright ridiculous. The androgynous nature of fashion in this era gave inspiration to many a caricature and satirical cartoon that made fun of women’s appearances, often printed in the same magazines using said woman’s likeness in advertising and fashion spreads.
These negative responses show us a form of male anxiety about the destabilization of patriarchal gender roles and the uncomfortable questions posed by the meshing of male and female gender expression. If a woman can look like a man and move somewhat freely in male territories, what place does the man have, what rights are he entitled to? And consequently: Can men compete with these new, modern women – for work, status, or female romantic partners?
Through revolutionary new technologies like film, more sophisticated photography and effective print methods, images had the ability to spread like they never could before. Culture became increasingly visual, and in the cityscape there were countless surfaces, in home as well as public environments, covered with images. Magazine covers, film posters and adverts all utilized photographs or illustrations to entice the gaze of prospective customers.
A perfect motif, the new woman was used to sell everything from newspapers and amateur cameras to shoes and movie tickets. She was fashionable and desirable to both male and female consumers, and much like the advertising of today, her likeness sold not only products – but a lifestyle. She offered women not only the figure and fashion of the day, but an exciting new world where women were independent, urbane and sexually liberated – if only you purchased the right brand of soap, the right cold cream and right magazine, you could be as modern and attractive as the woman in the ad.
Like any ideal, that of the new woman was difficult to achieve. To be as glamorous as a film star or advert model meant hard work and to no small extent hard cash. Hair grew and needed to be cut, lipstick ran out and needed to be replenished, and clothes went out of style and needed to be replaced. Despite her relative economic independence, most self-sufficient women in the 1920s didn’t live on a generous budget. Not to mention the fact that being fashionable was often expected of female employees – making it necessary to spend money to make money.
Thereby, the new woman was not only a form of liberation but imposed a plethora of new expectations and demands to achieve. To many women, this meant living beyond your means to maintain work and social status. Even without being laced into a physically constricting corset, this new woman had a whole new set of restrictive ideals to achieve through consumption. We have more than we think in common with her – seeing her echo back at us from tube adverts, shop windows and to no small extent the internet of conspicuous consumption. Just like her, we must buy the dream as advertised.
I went to see the Gerda Wegener exhibit at Millesgården in Stockholm with my friend Oli and it was so lovely, I just wanted to crawl into the frame of the paintings and live there! Gerda has come to some attention recently because of her wife and muse Lili Elbe – one of the first trans women to go through medical gender-affirming treatment. She modeled for many of Gerda’s paintings, embodying the “new woman” of the 1920s.
Shiseido is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Rainbow Face Powders they launched in 1917 by re-releasing them as a set in packaging that looks just like the original. As a beauty history fan this is very exciting – but also very expensive at $ 200.
Wanna read a really stilted, marketing-oriented article explaining millenials, beauty influencers and how to market to us mysterious, unpredictable young women? Probably not, but here it is. Trigger warning: Jeffree Star is involved.
INSPO: Spring Pastels (Please god let winter end…)
I’ll confess right away – I love movies (though I loathe the term cinephile…gross). I watch them a lot – I’m the kind of person who can’t focus on one thing at a time so I usually have a movie or tv show rolling in the background as I’m working on something. Now, as with any visual media, film is full of interesting aesthetic choices – including cosmetic ones. I’d like to highlight some of my favourite beauty looks in film, starting with a movie I watched recently.
The Love Witch is a 2016 Horror-Comedy that follows the young, widowed witch Elaine as she uses any means necessary to find the love she deserves. Director Anna Biller’s creative control is meticulous, with costumes and decor made by her to match the 60s pulp novel style that permeates the film. The makeup in particular reflects this kitschy romantic aesthetic, featuring more or less spackle-like base makeup with bright pink blush and blue eyeshadow, huge false eyelashes and ultra-thick black eyeliner.
Elaine’s outfits in the film are consistently colour-matched – in the first scene, her outfit, car and suitcases are all bright red. The title is imposed over her shimmery, turqoise-eyeshadow coated eye as distressing horror movie-esque music plays in the background. She really looks like one of those vintage paper dolls, or the heroine of a sexy-occult dimestore novel. It’s a campy, excessive femininity that borders on the grotesque in its exaggeration.
Throughout the movie, her makeup looks morph to match the tone of the scene and outfit, starting with confident bright blue shadow and pink lipstick as the love-starved Elaine starts her new life, ready for Mr. Right. The eyes play a particularly central part, as the camera zooms into Elaine’s hypnotic gaze as it’s turned on unsuspecting men who are all helpless to resist.
Intense eye makeup is a recurring theme among female characters, symbolizing both occult and sexual power – female characters without this type of appeal have a far more pared-down makeup look, like Trish, Elaine’s new friend. Other women in the film also have a natural look, making Elaine look all the more exotic in comparison.
Barbara however, is involved in the same occult circle as Elaine, where sexual polarity and female sex appeal are central. As such, she wears the sultry kohl-pencilled eye look seen above.
New initiates Moon and Star are initially fresh-faced and dressed in simple whites, but after being taught by the witch circle to draw on their sex appeal, both wear black-and-gold eye makeup and face paint as they mesmerize male onlookers.
After her first romance fails with tragic consequences, Elaine’s makeup takes on a slightly less cheery look, with blue eyeshadow traded for smoky purples and greys, only for the blue to return as she once again starts to pursue potential love interests. The colour choices and intensity of her looks reflect not only her emotional state, but her intent. As she finally falls in love for real, her colour scheme softens and lightens, presenting her as more vulnerable – and when that love fails, her misery hardens her both in behaviour and appearance.
As it turns out, Elaine’s methods are a form of self-defense and a survival mechanism in a world where men have judged, hurt and used her. In one scene where makeup plays a particularly symbolic role, a grief-stricken Trish breaks into Elaine’s apartment and starts applying her makeup and wearing her clothes, desperately trying to achieve the same type of feminine charm as Elaine – even going so far as to wear her wig and lingerie. The scene echoes Elaine’s magic rituals earlier in the film, presenting the artifice of feminine self-adornment as a form of witchcraft in itself.
In The Love Witch, Anna Biller succeeds in satirizing misogynist film tropes of 60s esoterica and sexploitation, while using a kitschy historical aesthetic that strengthens the story rather than obscuring it. It’s robust substance and technicolour surface elegantly combined to pose questions about love, power, gender and performativity, all delivered with equal measures of humour and sobriety.
I mentioned in my last nail art post that I’m not exactly adept at nail art, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Luckily, there’s a whole industry aimed at butterfingered fools like me, producing all sorts of wonderfully tacky DIY nail art products that let you wear everything from the american flags to oil paintings on your fingertips. As a girl with fundamentally questionable aesthetic judgement, I went for good old nail stickers.
This is the easiest thing – you paint your nails (optional), cut out your sticker (like those rub-on tattoos of boy bands and puppies we all loved as a child) and press it against your nail. Tada. Art! I added some top coat to keep them in place, and there you go. [Gordon Ramsay Voice] Ugly-cute rose manicure – DONE.
Note: These aren’t the most durable high-quality stickers on the planet, so they kind of ripped and broke as I applied them. Let’s call it a grunge look, then.
[DISCLAIMER: This post contains press samples and referral links]
Lipstick is by far my favourite beauty product, but it’s not enough to just paint your lips in fun colours and be done with it. I want my lips to be soft, smooth and comfortable at all times – and that’s where lip treatments are important. I’m not using the term balm here because a balm is not the be-all end-all of lip care – there are scrubs, serums, masks… all sorts of lip-related gimmicks.
I thought I’d share some of my favourites.
CLINIQUE SWEET POT
I bought this because it looked cute. It’s like a little sci fi macaron, with one side filled with a sugar scrub, the other with a lightly tinted balm. It’s not the most effective balm in the world, but it’s SO cute. Sue me, I’m shallow.
AKADEMIKLINIKEN PURE LIP INTENSE
This was one of the samples handed out at Daisy Beauty Expo, and I was really pleasantly surprised when what I thought was a plain balm turned out to A. Be bright red and B. Smell and taste like raspberry drops. It’s a very thin, glossy stain-like texture with salicylic acid and antioxidants as its active ingredients.
LANOLIPS 101 OINTMENT
Unavailable in Sweden as of yet (a shame) this is 100% lanolin, a.k.a wool fat. Needless to say this product is not vegan. This stuff goes a very long way and I just love the cute tube complete with adorable long-lashed sheep mascot. You an easily find other lanolin ointments at pharmacies and beauty supplies – it’s often sold as nipple cream!
BY TERRY BAUME DE ROSE CRYSTALLINE
This is more like a gloss texture than a balm, though still very emollient and rich. It has that old-fashioned makeup smell I’m obsessed with, and is perfect smoothed over a particularly drying lipstick. I’ve busted up mine by getting lipstick on the applicator.
Verso is a Swedish skincare brand based on a patented retinoid, so of course there’s retinol in this as well. Do my lips need retinol? Probably not. Do I want it anyway? YES. This stuff also contains salicylic acid, so it will help keep flakiness at bay.
DIOR LIP SUGAR SCRUB
Another Daisy Beauty Expo sample, I was sceptical of this scrub at first but was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t look gritty enough to get the job done, but sure enough, it gets rid of gross dry flaky bits AND tastes like candy canes. And it’s pink.
One of my favourite balm products is the Glossier Balm DotCom (I have a 20%off referral link if you want to try it), but mine was tragically lost under mysterious circumstances. I favour the pink, rose-scented version because duh, pink and rosy. If you’re not inclined to spend $12 on a lip balm just because it’s cute, Aquaphor is a tried-and-true cure for chapped lips that has basically the same formula as Balm DotCom – the holy trinity of Lanolin, Beeswax and Mineral Oil that I like to see in a balm.
Let’s take a serious moment. Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday with plenty of controversy attached to it. How can a celebration of love be controversial? Isn’t love a universally pure, good thing? Well, I want to say yes. But also no.
Love can be as draining as it can be energizing. It can be productive or destructive. And unfortunately, the type of love we celebrate most – especially for Valentine’s day – is alienating and unrealistic. In my last Valentine-related post I made an offhand remark about Valentine’s Day being a celebration of heteropatriarchal capitalism. I wasn’t wrong.
I’m a lesbian, so I am by nature unimpressed with the idea of a man presenting a bouquet of red roses as a declaration of his undying passion. But I’ve grown up, like most other girls, more or less conditioned to crave male romantic attention and its gestures like the bouquets of roses, the gold necklaces, those corny teddy bears holding stuffed hearts with the text B MINE embroidered on. I’m often flattered and automatically flirty when men show me sexual interest, despite having no attraction to them. It’s like an involuntary motor response.
So through my own experience of compulsory heterosexual behaviour (which, can I add, also affects women who are attracted to men) I feel very critical of Valentine’s Day, which only adds another layer of product consumption to this stew of heteronormativity – a day for women to buy lingerie and men to buy chocolates and jewellery. What I feel most of all is the division of labour. Gifts are presented once a year in return for constant emotional work – an exhausting task that is demanded of women in many respects, but especially in romantic relationships with men.
For fear of sounding like an angry feminist – which I am – it’s a form of inequality that is at the core of male/female relationships. I see this in my own family, in my friends’ families and relationships. It appears not only with male partners but with fathers, brothers, even friends. Now, my perspective is tainted by the fact that I grew up with an abusive father, where this inequality is dialled up to its most obvious. But despite the advanced grade of emotional terror I was under, I didn’t actually see it for what it was until fairly recently. Women center men in their lives at their own expense, downplaying their own emotional needs because they think that’s the only way to “keep the peace”. But the only peace being kept is his.
One of my earliest posts is a little collection of vintage beauty products and packaging, and I have two new additions to the family! Well, I actually got these last fall, but they’re new to you.
Most of my collection from the previous post were purchased on a summer trip to see my friend Mika in Karlskrona, a beautiful navy town in the southern part of Sweden. I think Mika must have some sort of wonderful dark magic attached to him, because wouldn’t you know it – when he came to visit me in Stockholm he brought me a beautiful vintage Stratton compact! (I was very excited about the Stratton engraving on the inner lid.)
It’s a sifter compact for loose powder – not a convertible. Stratton compacts are popular with collectors because there are so many different styles, many of which have the same sizes so you can swap sifters, puffs, and pans between them.
This still has powder and sifter inside, which always delights me. I used this guide to date it to, and this is my guess based on the design and back pattern, the 1940s or possibly early 50s.
When we met up, we stopped by my favourite vintage shop, Epok (which is beautiful and well worth the visit if you’re ever in my neck of the woods) and once again – there was a very familiar compact in the window. Oh yes. I’d found a bewitching little art deco compact by Houbigant in Karlskrona – and now I found her more gracefully-aged sister.
The same exact 30s-era miniature compact, but nearly new. The powder has barely been touched, and the puff is absolutely pristine. It still smells amazing. Can you believe it?!
Inside, the puff is barely stained with powder and looks like it hasn’t been touched.
[DISCLAIMER: All products in this review were received as press samples]
At Daisy Beauty Expo, Swedish Pharmacy Apoteket presented their new colour cosmetic line. I really liked their presentation, so I was excited to try out the products. Since I’m trying several products at the same time I’ll do an overview format rather than individual reviews, so we don’t end up with so many separate, lengthy review posts. All products in this post were received as press samples.
Apoliva offers a hypoallergenic, preservative-free (mascaras excepted) makeup line sold at pharmacy locations. The line includes a total of 50 products in 12 formulations/formats and is recommended for all skin types. The packaging is sleek, simple and feels high-quality.
Face Products tested: Foundation in 02 Beige, Powder in 02 Beige, Rouge in 03 Mellanrosa (Medium Pink).
I applied the foundation with a damp beautyblender on cleansed and moisturized skin, and found the shade a good match for me – The coverage I found was extremely light, more like a tinted moisturizer than a foundation. It set to a natural-looking satin finish without the need for powder. I did want to try the powder however, so I applied a very light dusting in my T-zone with a fluffy brush and immediately regretted it. I don’t have dry skin, but somehow this powder made me look flaky. Not my favourite.
The rouge is wonderful – very pigmented and I like the no-nonsense name of the colours across the range. I used a small blush brush for this and found it blendable and luminous – if you choose one product from this range, make it a blush!
For eyes, I started with Too Faced shadow insurance (as I am extremely crease-prone) and followed by laying down the second lightest shade as a base. These shadows are your typical “nude” colours, all matte essentials in five shades of brown. They are powdery but blendable and easy to work with. I followed with the middle shade in my crease, and added the darkest shade at the outer V for dimension. The lightest shade, a cream colour, worked well as a low-key highlight for the inner corner. I’ll say the result was successful – a simple but flattering everyday eye look that anyone can do – but it’s not exactly intense in terms of pigmentation or colour range.
Following eyeshadow, I applied the eye pencil as liner and winged it out slightly. The eye pencil is another of my favourites among the bunch, the grey colour isn’t too harsh and it’s easy to correct mistakes or smoke out. It works wonderfully on the waterline as well.
Then, I applied a coat of volume mascara, which didn’t really deliver volume but a very pared-down, natural look to the lashes. I like the brush, which is about the size of a toilet brush, but other than that it fell a little flat for me. Perhaps I’ll like it better after it’s dried out a little?
In conclusion, the Apoliva makeup line is more suited to a beginner or someone who doesn’t have a huge interest in makeup – it’s a natural-looking no-makeup-makeup with neutrals and essentials. It’s easy to work with, and forgiving if you make a mistake.
I enjoy the foundation very much since it’s so light – but it’s also my least favourite thing about the line. The foundation is available in 8 shades, which is a lot for a new launch – but they’re all beige. Every single one. They explained that they’re developing a separate line for dark skin, which I guess is better than nothing, but how are we supposed to interpret that? Girls with dark skin are promised a future spinoff, but won’t be included in the main line? Apoteket, you can do better than this. You should do better than this.
Price range: Lower/mid – with a price range of 99-169 SEK (11-19 USD / 10-18 EUR) Pros: Upgraded packaging, ease of use, quality is mostly good. Cons: Shade range, some duds in the lineup, nothing revolutionary Referral program? No. Reorder? Not for me – I like brighter colours!